I have been so out of kilter for so long, struggling along semi-ill and permanently bewildered. I tried to be helpful and fit in with things – become involved in group events; churchy things and whatnot, socializing . . . And it just does my head in.
A few weeks ago I made the decision to climb back up the mountain a little way – stopped answering the phone, said ‘No’ even when I felt desperately sorry for people and wanted to say ‘Yes’.
I’ve been working working working, editing someone’s first novel, a fine work of hefty proportions, very ambitious and fraught with problems – takes me an hour or more to work through a single page, that’s every page. But that suits me well, I love working.
And just this afternoon it’s like everything has fallen back into place and I feel like me again – yes, anti-social, semi-bonkers, lost-in-my-imagination, me.
What I craved and starved for was the thing I call ‘teenage time’.
Do you remember teenage time?
There’s a wonderful poem by Brian Patten called Travelling Between Places. I have to tell you, the first link I found for this, I thought, ‘Oh it’s in someone’s blog – oh never mind, that’ll do, they can still read the poem’ and – friends this is true – I never even noticed the poem was surrounded by gay porn . . . Happily I eventually spotted a salacious close-up of somebody’s glorious bottom and the inevitable Michelangelo David or you might have got more than you bargained for when you clicked that link. If you are disappointed, well I’m sorry. Google Books is way more boring.
But what I love in that poem is the last stanza “when the late afternoon / drifts into the woods, when /nothing matters specially”
I first read that when I was fourteen years old (yes, that’s forty-two years ago), and it stopped me in my tracks then and has stayed with me ever since. It’s what I think of as the Boxing Day phenomenon – timeless time, unscheduled time, a whole day to read by the fire or walk in the lanes and the fields, the woods. Time to write poetry, listen to music, dream and think and make up stories, sew things, draw pictures, wander in the garden and look really properly at the dewy grass, the cobwebs, the falling leaves, the way a tree grows, the flight of birds across the cloudscape. Time unspoilt by the nagging guilt that you should be somewhere else doing something for somebody - time when nothing matters specially.
That, to me, is “teenage time”. When I was a teenager (partly because I didn’t do my homework properly and I never joined a single club) I had OODLES of time like that. Singing in tongues to our sheep and lying on my back watching the sky through tree branches, standing in the river shallows watching the water flowing over my feet, reading Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha and thinking about St Francis.
Then came the adult years – and somehow they got busier and busier and busier until I reached “Stop little pot! Stop!” A life overflowing with ontological porridge.
And in the end I came to feel if I couldn’t get back to teenage time I’d get sick and die.
I struggled free of a lot of things, but I have this urge to help people and preach the Gospel, which tends to get me embroiled again. And by this Spring I was fast like a fly wrapped up by a spider, in Virtuous Things To Do.
And I had to get free again. I just had to, or I’ll never write another book.
But this afternoon, in the solitude and the peculiar joyous wildness of autumn, I found I’d finally clicked into the groove again, got the melody back, the contentment and the peace. And I say, THANK GOODNESS!
Okay then, back to the editing . . .